How to Handle Negative Emotions in Your Power Exchange | 30 Days of D/s
Let me let you in on an uncomfortable fact about power exchange, kink, and BDSM: It won’t live up to the fantasy you create in your mind. Like every other part of life, it’s got both good and bad, even in solid relationships. And some of that “bad” is how we feel about something and how we handle those bad feelings. That’s right, even after you enter the D/s relationship of your kinky dreams, you and your partner will still go through shitty moments together. You’ll be angry, sad, jealous, and a lot of other not-so-great emotions.
The real issue isn’t whether you’ll experience these emotions or not. It’s about how you’ll handle it when you do. Here are a few strategies that work for us.
Note: We’re talking about mostly good, fairly health power exchange relationships. If you’re in a dangerous or abusive situation, none of this applies in the same way.
Talk About How You Feel
Assuming the bad feeling you’re having isn’t due to something your partner did, talk to your partner about what you’re going through. (For the record, when the negative emotion is caused by something with your partner you still need to talk to them, but sometimes that’s not the first step.) From bad days at work to doubting yourself in your kinky role, discussing your feelings with someone who cares about you can help you get it off your chest and (possibly) help you get perspective from an outside source. If nothing else, at least that emotion isn’t bottled up inside you, waiting to explode out in a way that’s not relevant to the situation.
What we push down inside of us will come out in unexpected ways. Had a bad day at work but haven’t talked to anyone about it? Don’t be surprised if you snap at your partner for “no reason” later.
If the bad feeling has something to do with your partner — what they did or didn’t do, how you perceive a situation, etc — you definitely need to talk to them about it. The following tips can help you do that in a way that’s more productive than yelling at one another or giving each other the silent treatment.
Take Time to Process Your Thoughts and Feelings
If I’m angry or upset because of something John Brownstone has done (or that I perceive he’s done — which isn’t always the same thing), I try to take time to figure out how I feel — and why I feel that way. Sometimes I talk to myself (laugh all you want, but it really helps me work out a lot of stuff). Sometimes I write it down in a journal or as an email I’ll never send. (This is a common tactic to say exactly how you feel — without actually saying it to anyone.)
And sometimes those emotions are all within us and about our own past experiences and have little to do with our partner. For example…
The last time (pre-COVID) John Brownstone went away for a weekend with another partner, I was eaten alive with insecurity and envy. I could have called him and demanded his attention (which I would have regretted later). Instead, I tried to think about why I was feeling these emotions. Had anything happened? (No.) Was it my own insecurities from previous bad relationships? (Yes.) By the time he came home, I was able to talk to him about it in a calm, collected way.
Be Honest About the Problem
In a lot of kinky relationships when a submissive is angry or upset, they may not feel comfortable or willing to tell their Dominant how they feel — or why they feel a certain way. Too many people think that stepping into a submissive role means stepping away from everything that doesn’t fall into their idealized power exchange relationship. The reality is that there will be arguments, disagreements. Your seemingly infallible Dominant will be wrong sometimes. Also, even though you strive to be the best submissive you can be, sometimes you’ll be wrong, too.
Dominants may also believe they’re supposed to be calm, stoic, and unflappable at all times. (WRONG!) So instead of admitting their anger or working through how they feel, they bottle it up and act like nothing’s wrong. What you push down will resurface in other ways.
At the same time, many “problems” are caused by both partners. Even if it’s through benign neglect or a lack of understanding and knowledge. There’s three sides to every story: yours, mine, and the truth somewhere in the middle.
So whatever has you upset with each other, one of the ways through the moment is to be honest about what happened.
“I didn’t appreciate being ignored all day. It made me feel [INSERT FEELING HERE].”
Use “I” Statements
Did you notice what I did in that example? I said “I feel this way and this is why.” When in an angry or upset headspace, throwing out “you” statements isn’t productive. In fact, it can make things worse.
“You never call me. You never tell me what’s going on. You’re the reason I’m miserable.”
To be frank, all of that might be true, but is it helpful? Usually not because the other person feels like they’re being attacked and will become defensive. Instead of working on a solution or hearing what you’ve said, they’re in defense mode — or worse on the attack about what you haven’t done. This is a time to use “I” statements instead.
“I don’t like it when we don’t talk as planned. I feel alone and forgotten.”
Own your feelings. Make them about you. At that point, you can begin to work through the causes and the solutions.
Give Each Other Space
When John Brownstone and I fuss with each other, I have a tendency to want to fix the problem immediately. I don’t want us to not be our happy selves. Which means I often to push for a resolution before he’s ready for one. (Which usually only makes him angrier or more annoyed.)
If one (or both) of you need space, give it to yourselves. Take a break. Go to your own corners. Talk about it together when you feel more calm and collected. Sometimes this means radio silence for an hour or so, sometimes it means changing the subject.
If either of you has a tendency to never come back to the moment, make a commitment to follow up at a specific time whether that’s in an hour, tomorrow, or another set time. Importantly, keep this appointment with each other. What you don’t work through now will come back up again later — now with the added bonus of resentment from an unresolved situation.
You’re going to be angry, hurt, sad, and upset in any kinky relationship. There’s no avoiding it. If you try to ignore those negative feelings, you do a great disservice to yourself and to the relationship. In solid relationships, most issues can be worked through. In relationships that aren’t meant to work, you’ll be stuck in a dissatisfying relationship longer than necessary. Face those emotions. It doesn’t make you less submissive or Dominant to do so and will likely help your relationship move forward in healthy ways.
Like all things with D/s, these are skills that must be learned. Simply switching to power exchange doesn’t automatically mean you know how to do this. The behaviors you exhibited in your vanilla life will follow you into kink. If you handled conflict well before, you’ll likely be fine. If you didn’t, it’s time to learn how to do it in a healthy way.
Dive into this topic a little further:
Anger in D/s Relationships (podcast episode 170)
Going to Bed Angry (podcast episode 251)
Disagreements and Arguments in D/s (podcast episode 25)
Jealousy in D/s Relationships (podcast episode 148)
Dealing with Insecurities in Your D/s Relationship (podcast episode 89)
We’re blogging our 30 Days of D/s program. If you want to get to know yourself as a kinkster and figure out what a happy, healthy power exchange relationship looks like for you, check it out! You can sign up for a free email version to receive a prompt a day for 30 days or you can buy the workbook and get it all at once!